Peter Rankine’s musical journey began in a canoe on a river in North Queensland, where the exquisite beauty of pre-dawn birdsong transcended even the beauty of the light. From that experience, sound became his medium of choice in his response to life and its mysteries. Across the range and scope of his music are three perennial ideas – lyricism, the quest for simplicity, and vital rhythmic invention. The first two of these are present even in his most technically demanding scores, while a taste for the third element was acquired when realising that rhythm is what animates melody, and in nature is abundant in its variety and subtleties.
Peter studied piobaireachd (for the highland bagpipe) in his teens and early twenties in Australia, New Zealand and Scotland and, after taking up flute, jazz at SCM and as a private student of Don Burrows. Following an epiphany triggered by Bartök, he studied B.Mus (flute) and Grad Dip Mus (composition) at the QCM. From UQ he attained his M.Mus and B.Ed. He lectured in music at QUT from 1988-95 and taught in primary and secondary music education from 2000-08 when he was also active in course design and panel work. In 2021 he earned his PhD from QCGU.
Career highlights include: two residencies with the QYO, producing several works but especially Symphonia Dialectica (opening work at the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in 1988) and Celtic Cross (for Graeme Jennings), both directed by John Curro; From Fire by Fire commissioned by the Qld Wind Soloists; Time and the Bell commissioned by Musica Nova for Paul Dean (later concerto of choice for 2003 Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year, Richard Haynes; John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat for QPAT’s inaugural Out of the Box in 1992; Surya Namaskar, Chaand Namaskar for horn and percussion (Michael Dixon and David Montgomery); And So the Soul for MSO/Marcus Stenz; Media Vita for Canticum/Emily Cox, and Five Leunig Songs for St Peter’s Chorale/Graeme Morton, later reconceived for Wendy Dixon/Grevillea Ensemble.
The Crushing (2010-12) a 90 min chamber opera (libretto by Rod Ainsworth) brought him ultimately to working directly onto ‘tape’, thereby making possible collaboration with artists such as Katie Stenzel and James Crabb. Adding synthesis and sound design to his skills has led to an approach he developed for his PhD that he calls “polymodular synthesis” wherein ideas from one genre/domain are transformed via a modulation matrix into new works in another genre/domain. The first excursions of these were the electroacoustic Bunyip Endeavour for Endeavour Trio (2018), and the purely electronic Bunyip Polymodular (2020, performed by the composer), both referencing but transforming music from his chamber opera Bunyip!
Peter’s current research is mindful of the oscillation at the heart of every sound; of the resulting tone being shaped by some form of filtering and modulation; and of the connectedness between sounds from the natural world, from songbirds and whales, and from highly crafted acoustic and electronic symphonies.
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